National Coordination Body For Democratic Change

National Coordination Body For Democratic Change

Syria Policy Briefing: Despite attempts at unity, the beginning of the Syrian uprising saw the emergence of two major groups in the Syrian political opposition: the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change (or NCB) – formed in spring 2011 – and the Syrian National Council (SNC) – formed that autumn. The origins of this split predate the Syrian uprising. Broadly, the NCB appeared as a coalition of mostly internally-based and strongly secular opposition, including political parties and individuals of the “traditional” opposition (i.e. that of the old left and Arab nationalists). Externally-based Islamists and several independent academics and political figures, coalesced around the SNC.

The most manifest difference between the ‘internals’ and the ‘externals’ has been in their respective stance towards the regime and regime change. SNC figures advocated for the complete overthrow of the regime while the NCB subordinates regime change to comprehensive democratic reform and the preservation of national unity, whereby maintaining the Syrian state’s integrity is crucial. It insists on a negotiated solution to the crisis, including with the regime itself.

For many, this suggests that the NCB is hardly an opposition group at all and is only interested in the revolution to the extent that it has secular and nationalist ends. For NCB supporters the consistent prioritisation of these ends makes them principled; for their detractors it makes them elitist, irrelevant and even regime sympathetic. Undeniably, a peaceful negotiated transition away from the current regime implies that dialogue is necessary with parts of it, including those who have blood on their hands.

Meanwhile the NCB’s popularity increases among Syrian moderates, minorities and secular constituencies. In this way, the NCB may be positioning itself to be representative of the growing number of neutralist voices in Syrian civil society; rejecting the absolutism of both the regime and the NC. However, it is unlikely that the NCB is in a position to take advantage of it as there is very little record of collaboration with relevant civil society groups. Privately, youth-led civil society groups shun them.

It is in the international arena that the NCB has found the most success. They have been an enthusiastic advocate for the Geneva process although it is difficult to see what role the NCB may play in the future. The NCB has virtually no connections with powerful political or military opposition groups inside Syria. It is yet to be seen how or even whether Syrian civil society will be given a separate voice at the Geneva conference, but in any case, it is unlikely the NCB will be in a position to act as its representative.

See the full policy briefing here. 

Recommended Posts

Start typing and press Enter to search